It seems like when everything is going well, we just wait for other shoes to drop, because that’s how life tends to be. We can have it all then lose everything overnight. However, what separates those who end up on top from those who stay at the bottom could come down from how they respond to the biggest obstacles, including death itself. Kelly Alexander clinically died after being a lifelong athlete, but how she overcame death rewrote her story. It was meant to be a beautiful morning for longtime athlete Colleen Kelly Alexander, as she rode her bike home from work.
She thought she had already gone through the worst of it, having survived both the diagnosis of lupus and brain surgery. She now was married to the love of her life, with whom she shared a passion for a fulfilling career. They were even trying to have a baby. The plan for that day was for Colleen to meet up with her friend for a bike ride. While her husband Sean was at work.
However, she would never make it to her plans, although it almost have happened so fast. Colleen still remembers the details of what happened. That day, as I settled into the right-hand Lane of a busy Avenue, a freight truck turned in my direction from a side street, he slowed down at the corner. We made eye contact then, for reasons I’ll, never know he accelerated. There was nothing I could do but Scream the Giant Truck knocked me down onto my left side.
My legs got tangled up with my bike. I heard snapping and grinding as his front tires drove over me. I felt my insides cracking when his back tires did the same. Despite being in shock. Colleen remembers people rushing to her side and screaming that she was alive.
She may have been alive to much of everyone’s surprise, but barely Colleen’s description of her injuries is quite graphic. So be cautious as you listen to her next quote, I raised my head just enough to see something: bright, white and yellow protruding from my leg, bone, tendons and fatty cells. The skin had peeled right off. Most of the lower half of my body, along with my clothing, there wasn’t any normal flesh to see. My abdomen was opened up and I was bleeding out within 20 minutes.
Colleen was rushed to the emergency room where, for eight straight hours, she kept dying quite literally Colleen flatlined, not just once but several times each time requiring someone to perform CPR to pull her back into our world as her body kept trying to give up and move On to the next, it took so long that the doctors had to take rotations because just keeping her alive was exhausting at the same time, because her body was opened up with serious wounds. A trauma team was carefully picking the gravel and debris out of her body. It seemed like all the odds were stacked against her survival. The doctors decided to resort to drastic measures and place choline in an induced coma. This was meant to slow down her brain function and reduce swelling in the hopes of preventing or lessening brain damage.
Colleen was in and out of surgery several times and the pain, never subsided. The most helpless part was that she couldn’t even relay how she felt at the time I saw a bright light and masked faces hovering over me. I remember my chest rising and falling, but I couldn’t take a breath as I woke the pain hit hard, but I couldn’t move or communicate no matter how hard I tried. Colleen highlights that there is often a misunderstanding when it comes to induced Comas. People often think that they make you completely unconscious, so you lose a sense of your surroundings.
However, Colleen could see and hear everything and it felt like she was imprisoned in her own body for weeks after the trauma I felt like I was locked in a nightmare. Imprisoned by my body, sometimes I was unconscious, but other times I existed in a state that has no easy comparison. I couldn’t focus on anyone or anything, but I could hear sounds and feel Sensations. I was so hot all the time that it felt as if my body were on fire. I began having thoughts that were almost hallucinations about lying in a pool of water.
Medically induced coma can’t take away all the pain, nothing can the coma just. Does it enough? So that you don’t actually die from the shock of it all the first days after the accident may have been the most traumatic, but the road to recovery. Afterward was just as painful. It took time for Colleen’s body to stabilize enough for her to attempt physical therapy at first.
She couldn’t even walk with a walker, because it was too painful for someone who was once an athlete. This was heartbreaking. Colleen asked her doctors. Am I ever going to walk? Normally again to which they honestly responded, we don’t know but we’re going to work on it.
Despite the limited amount of hope she was given. Colleen was determined to do everything in her power to make it through what gave Colleen the power to push through. Was the certainty that if she had survived despite the injuries, she was alive for a reason, so she made a choice. All this wasted, emotion, feeling miserable for myself needed a direction. The direction I chose was gratitude.
I thought of all the people who would save my life. The Strangers are ran to my side after the truck hit me the doctors and nurses, who brought me back from Death more than once the staff at Gaylord who were doggedly helping me walk again and relearn basic tasks. It took 78 units of blood as well as 25 bags of plasma and platelets for more than 125 people’s donations for Colleen to survive. She didn’t want any of that to go unacknowledged. She felt grateful she wanted to do something to not only thank them, but also honor them.
I may not have been able to walk yet, but I could, from my rehab bed, organize a cycling tour to raise money for adaptive bikes for disabled athletes. We ended up raising more than ten thousand dollars with a purpose in mind. Colleen focused on her recovery and the day finally came when she pushed herself away from her wheelchair and baby step by baby step distance herself with her walker. She was walking, she remembers hearing you did it Colleen you did it all the way across the room. This was the beginning of a new chapter.
Just 10 months after she died, Colleen ran the superhero half marathon in New Jersey. I did it while using a walker. Toting a colostomy bag and dressed as Wonder, Woman, cape and all at the Finish Line. I was greeted by Sean who smothered me in kisses. Since then, Colleen has run many races and has even gotten rid of her walker.
Colleen could have never expected how her life would change. What first seemed like a nightmare became a turning point for a life full of success and gratitude. My injury also made me realize just how lucky I am to have Sean in the darkest moments of being locked in a coma his voice. Soothed me it does to this day with each step. I am grateful in motion.
Colleen has taken that message and shared in both in a book and through numerous conferences, she’s now a doer Mentor, motivator and staunch advocate for those reaching to achieve their highest purpose.